Types of diabetes.

There are two main types of diabetes, referred to as Type 1 and Type 2 Diabetes respectively.

Type 1 Diabetes

Type 1 Diabetes (previously known as Insulin Dependent Diabetes, or Juvenile Diabetes) occurs when the pancreas produces very little insulin, or no insulin at all. The pancreas is therefore not functioning as it was designed to do, and intervention is required.

In Type 1 Diabetes, the Beta cells (in the pancreas), normally responsible for making and secreting insulin, die as a result of the body’s immune system attacking them. With no cells available to produce insulin, the affected person cannot use the glucose in the food that he or she eats, and the glucose levels in the blood rise. Should this happen, there is a very high risk of death if the affected person is not quickly given supplemental insulin.

The incidence of Type 1 Diabetes has probably been underestimated in the past, and may represent 10% or more of people with diabetes. It usually starts in young people under the age of 30 (including very young children and infants), and the onset is sudden and dramatic. Treatment of Type 1 Diabetes requires daily injections of insulin to survive, with insulin dosages being carefully balanced with food intake and exercise programmes.

Type 2 Diabetes

Type 2 Diabetes (previously known as Non-Insulin Dependent Diabetes, Adult Onset Diabetes, Maturity Onset Diabetes, amongst others) is caused when insulin produced by the pancreas is either not sufficient or the insulin that is produced cannot be utilised by the body.

In Type 2 Diabetes, the beta cells in the pancrease are in fact pancreas present, but although insulin is produced, the amount of insulin available is less than the individual requires. This is because the insulin itself doesn't work as well as it should when it gets to the body's cells - a state called Insulin Resistance. Or, in someone with Type 2 Diabetes, the insulin itself doesn’t work as well as it should when it gets to the cell – a state called Insulin Resistance.

Approximately 85 – 90% of all people diagnosed with diabetes are Type 2, and many people who have this condition are unfortunately undiagnosed. Type 2 Diabetes occurs most commonly in people over age forty, who are overweight, do not get enough exercise and may have high blood pressure (hypertension) and high cholesterol.

Type 2 Diabetes may be treated successfully without medication, and often weight loss alone will reduce glucose levels. Treatment may include the improvement of diet, starting or increasing exercise levels, and pharmacological medicine (tablets in the form of hypoglycemic agents). Sometimes, supplemental insulin is also necessary.

Although Type 2 is in itself not life threatening, in many ways it is even more dangerous than Type 1. The onset of Type 2 is gradual and hard to detect, and high blood glucose levels over a long period of time can cause serious damage to the delicate parts of the body and lead to impotence in men, blindness, heart attack, stroke, kidney failure, and amputation. Type 1 is normally diagnosed quite quickly and early on, whereas Type 2 can be a silent killer that goes undetected until it is too late.

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